SAN FRANCISCO – Virtual reality is just a stepping stone for augmented reality.
This was a conclusion a group of panelist reached during a breakout session discussion about the future of video games at GamesBeat 2015. Game developers today may still be trying to figure out how best to integrate virtual reality technology to enhance the gaming experience, but ultimately, they should be thinking of where they would like the technology to be and what kind of gaming experiences they could offer. Game developers want to figure out what will transform the gaming landscape in the next 20 years.
“VR can be interpreted kind of like what the portable was maybe a decade ago,” Kristian “Krispy” Uccello, a developer advocate at Google, said. “Not to delve too far into AR, but it is probably the likely headed outcome of all of our efforts with VR right now.”
When a new technology appears, the public’s tendency is often to discount it as a fad. But William Rhys Dekle, the senior director at Microsoft Game Studios, said he expects AR to be as successful as computers. Dekle also thinks AR, also known as mixed reality, will be able to convey VR experiences.
“All VR platforms will converge to mixed reality,” Dekle said.
Unlike VR, which puts the player into the game’s universe through a headset device, AR draws directly from the brain, making players feel as if game characters are physically present with them in the real world.
Seamus Blackley, a physicist and game designer at Innovative Leisure, said this potentially shifts the kind of games users want to play and how games are played. That in turn, could force companies to change revenue models.
“Does that [shift] cause people to want to have a different kind of game experience or does that cause people to want familiar games?” Blackley said.
Blackley said one limitation to VR’s success is that the game-playing experience can make users in their VR wear look silly to others in the room when they are playing a game. Microsoft’s movement recognition camera Kinect, for example, failed to take off because people were too embarrassed about how they look when they are playing an Xbox game.
VR is seen very much like an object that disconnects the person from the real world, whereas AR brings the gaming experience to the player.
“From my stand point, non-technologically, if you are in an AR setup, you can see what is going on and you can be a social animal,” Blackley said. “It’s much more compatible
with life than virtual reality.”
Not all developers are convinced about the promise of AR.
MaxPlay CEO Sinjin Bain said he saw its potential in the entertainment and technology industries, but he was still unsure of AR’s role in the future of video games.
“Is [mixed reality] going to be just another way to express another RPG or shooter?” Bain said.
Uccello said recent attempts by Nintendo to integrate VR shows the evolution of what consumers want from video games and provide hints into how AR could eventually meet their needs. The company announced in September Pokémon Go, a new iPhone and Android game that will use AR to let users catch and fight Pokémon in the real world.
“It’s shaping your paradigm based on what content you are willing to consume and what you are willing to pay for,” Uccello said of the game players.
He cautioned, however, that there was still a lot to figure out regarding security and health. “There’s no telling this will be successful,” he said. “It may bring up a whole bunch of issues that we haven’t thought of yet.”
One point the panelists all agreed on was that they might have a future in games as passive entertainment in addition to the active entertainment they’ve provided so far. According to Dekle, games might become a show to watch rather than a game to play. He said the popularity of Twitch and YouTube gaming videos proved that players are as inclined to watch someone play a game as they are to play it themselves.
“I think that in the next 10 years, the major changes we will see will be different forms of passive entertainment,” Dekle said. “”Five years from now, there will be more viewers than video gamers.”